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What are Hammertoes?

A hammertoe is a deformity that affects the second, third or fourth toes. In this condition, one or more of the toe joints are affected causing the toe(s) to curl up like little hammers. A hammertoe deformity commonly starts out mild but unfortunately is a progressive condition and typically worsens over time.

At the onset, hammertoes are flexible and can be managed with conservative intervention. Over time, if left untreated, hammertoes can become rigid and may require surgery to fully relieve symptoms and correct the problem. People with hammertoes often have corns or calluses on the tops of the affected toes from the pressure of rubbing against the inside of shoes.


What symptoms develop with hammertoes?

  • A noticeable bending or curling up of the toes
  • Pain or irritation when wearing shoes
  • Corns and calluses on the tops of toes, between toes or on the ball of the foot
  • Inflammation and redness
  • Burning
  • Open sores on the toes


How Did I Get Hammertoes?

A hammertoe deformity is most commonly due to a faulty foot structure that has developed over time. A structural abnormality, which can change the way you walk, often causes an imbalance in the muscles and tendons in your foot. This imbalance can lead to the bending of the toes. Having a pronation problem where your feet roll excessively inward can lead to an abnormal pulling of the tendons in your toes. Over time this can pull the toes into a contracted position resulting in hammertoes.

While shoes aren’t a direct cause of hammertoes, they are certainly a factor that can aggravate the condition. Wearing shoes that have high heels and tight toe boxes prevent the muscles in your toes from fully extending and can worsen a hammertoe condition. It is not uncommon to have a bunion problem in addition to hammertoes when ill-fitting footwear is a factor.

A previous injury to a toe can result in a hammertoe later on and you may also develop the condition if curled toes run in your family.


How Are Hammertoes Treated?

There are several treatment options for hammertoes, especially in the earlier stages when the toes are still in a flexible state. Some of the treatment methods Dr. Danciger may use include:

  • Shoe modifications – wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the toes
  • Padding to relieve pain from corns and calluses
  • Custom orthotics to control the muscle imbalance
  • Splinting to realign the bent toes
  • Surgery when the toes are rigid, painful and do not respond to conservative methods


What if Surgery is My Only Option?

Dr. Danciger has treated many patients with hammertoes who have needed surgery to fully alleviate pain and bring function back to their feet. If your hammertoe problem requires surgery, there is no need to fear. In most cases, it is a minor procedure where a piece of the bone is shaved and a pin is put in place to keep the toe straightened. You will need to wear a walking boot for several weeks but most patients are able to get back to work within a week if they are able to sit. Most exercise routines can be resumed in about a month. If you need surgery, Dr. Danciger and his caring staff will guide you every step of the way to ensure your success.

If you need information or treatment for a hammertoe problem, please contact us. The sooner you take action, the more you reduce your chances of needing surgery in the future. You can make an appointment with our Palm Desert, CA office by calling (760) 568-0108 or go directly to our homepage.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle